GSK aims for biotech attitude at R&D ops

Biotech thinking is in. The Big Pharma mindset is out. And you only have to stroll through the halls of GlaxoSmithKline's shrinking R&D ops to find telltale signs of the shift in development strategies.

The Wall Street Journal's Jeanne Whalen took a tour and found no shortage of anecdotes about GSK's move to break its research unit into small groups in order to develop that lean-and-mean biotech attitude needed to move through the clinic quickly. The British scientist Kevin Lee even had new gear made that was emblazoned with the logo of his biotech-like outfit. The gear and the name are intended to demonstrate "that we were biotech-like and not big-pharma-like."  

GSK's strategy has been to chop 20 percent out of its R&D ops, refocus its drug development strategy and partner up more with outside developers who can help fan the flames of entrepreneurship at the big multinational. Just to ensure that no one forgets how serious this all is, the discovery performance units, or DPUs as they're known inside the company, were given three-year plans back in 2008. And anyone who doesn't perform could face the axe next year.

The 500 R&D staffers in Verona, Italy, knew earlier this year that they weren't part of GSK's plans, a victim of GSK CEO Andrew Witty's decision to drop its work in certain areas of neuroscience. Today the company announced that it will sell its Italian R&D operation to Aptuit, which has its own ideas about energizing the R&D field.

"This partnership is an example of the developing new model of outsourced R&D collaborations," said Tim Tyson, Aptuit's chairman and chief executive.

- read the story from the Wall Street Journal
- here's the Reuters piece on the R&D deal with Aptuit